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2001 Local Government Election Manifesto - Northern Ireland Women's Coalition

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Text NIWC ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh

2001 Local Government Election Manifesto - Northern Ireland Women's Coalition

Our Approach

The Women's Coalition is a cross-community party. Our members are women and men from diverse backgrounds: rural and urban; young and old; nationalist, unionist and 'other'. Our experience tells us that, guided by principles of human rights, inclusion and equality, it is possible to manage our differences and achieve agreement on the issues that affect all of our lives. For us, politics is about getting on with people, about building positive relationships and strong partnerships, moving beyond the often destructive divisions of the past. Getting on with people means you get things done for people, advocating issues that improve people's lives. It means being effective. We want to work for you in the most effective way so that you get the most out of your local representative. We believe that only through collaboration between all sectors will there be an effective and representative government.

But, as we move from conflict to a more peaceful society, the shape of our local political landscape is changing. We have a devolved Assembly, and new North South institutions. Local government, too, is due for change - the number of councils (and councillors), and their powers may change. While councils will not be dealing directly with major health and education policies, they do influence local economic development, community development, and local planning and environmental policies. For more information on what your council is responsible for, check out

We welcome the review of the role and responsibilities of local councils. Just as we brought a new perspective and common sense to the peace talks, we want the opportunity to be involved in these discussions. We believe that local democracy must be effective and meaningful to people on the ground.


Our vision

Our vision is to build local communities that have a real say in their own development: communities that have a sense of pride in their neighbourhoods because local residents are well-informed about and active in promoting a strong sense of collective ownership and responsibility to their area. We want to see communities with plenty of green and safe spaces for children, age appropriate leisure facilities, an accessible, integrated and affordable public transport system; a good standard of mixed housing, and will provide facilities for recycling household waste. Residents will have the confidence to engage with other local communities. Their Council will serve as a clearinghouse of information and issues, facilitating work between public representatives and their communities in creating positive change for women and men, young and old, those living with disabilities, and regardless of ethnic origin or sexual orientation.


The Issues

For us, the key issues in this local government election are
¨ The Environment and Community Safety
¨ Transport and Planning
¨ Developing Communities and local economies
¨ Creating a More Inclusive Community


The Environment and Community Safety

People should have a right to live in a safe and healthy environment with adequate, appropriate and affordable social housing. Good housing, clean air, clean water, effective and efficient waste management policies and cheap and efficient public transport are crucial to a healthy environment.

Waste Management
As we consume more, so we (and our pets!) produce more waste. We know that there are providers ready to provide recycling bins, and the information as to how best to use them. We need an alternative to landfill waste disposal.

Councils need to
¨ Think creatively about new ways of managing and treating our waste. For example, growing natural reed beds can be a very effective and ecologically sound way of processing sewage
¨ Provide more information and education about the positive impact that recycling can have
¨ Provide more accessible and convenient recycling facilities
¨ Provide kerbside recycling facilities for household waste
¨ Conduct research into renewable energy sources, be courageous in piloting innovative schemes
¨ Provide facilities and incentives for pet owners who clean up after their pet in public parks and paths.
¨ Recognise that a comprehensive recycling scheme brings economic advantages of creating new jobs and increased tourism revenue in employing a comprehensive recycling scheme

Transport and Planning

Our roads and public transport system are deteriorating. Local government as well as the Assembly has a vital role to play in addressing this situation. Increased reliance on cars adversely impacts the environment in terms of pollution, and compromises the community ethos we want to build. Reliance on cars diverts attention and funding from public transport and leaves those who are unable to drive because of disability or age, without effective transport. Regular, accessible public transport should be a positive choice for people in Northern Ireland. As Northern Ireland continues to expand, the need for a well-coordinated and proactive plan for transport systems becomes increasingly important to sustain our growth.

We believe that the solutions lie in

¨ Connecting strategies in planning and transport and allocating resources to ensure that community development and transport reform complement each other.

¨ Locating housing principally within existing urban areas, planning for increased density of development for housing and commerical uses which are highly accessible by public transport, walking and cycling.

¨ Seeking to reduce crime and the fear of crime by designing new developments in ways which promote community and road safety.

¨ Increasing the number of park and ride services.

¨ Researching alternative transportation like trams, light rail, and promoting cycling and pedestrian routes

¨ Introducing more traffic calming measures particularly in areas where there are families and large numbers of children living

¨ Integrating bus and rail facilities

As our cities and towns expand, the methods by which we grow are of concern to many people. Old houses are being redeveloped into apartment complexes; local shops are losing trade to big supermarkets, and house prices are rising at a pace so fast that many families and communities find it difficult to sustain local links. We need to preserve existing green spaces, and ensure that new development happens on brownfield sites - in effect, a recycling of the land. But we need to make sure that brownfield development also takes into account the character of the neighbourhood; we must encourage development that solves current housing, transportation and environment problem, rather than creating new ones.. New development changes the nature of the residents and new problems can arise, like noise and greater numbers of cars parking on already crowded streets. This can also limit children's safety and space to play on the streets.

Some of these problems can be tackled by

¨ Obliging the Planning Service to consult with Councils on proposed developments that receive over 30 objections from residents

¨ Giving the Council an automatic monitoring role in applications, thus giving local residents a point of influence

¨ We need to adopt an overall plan aimed for 70% brownfield redevelopment, replacing the Belfast Area Metropolitan Plan proposals (for 60% greenfield and 40% brownfield) and keeping Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK and Europe.

¨ Pressing for the Council to deal with noise and rubbish more effectively

¨ The Planning Service zoned land for social housing and amenities, so that community diversity was preserved

¨ The Planning Service should be required to extend neighbour notification on all developments over 20 accommodation units or in the case of shopping or commercials developments. The current system is very limited and does not enable those most affected to be informed.

Developing Communities and their local economies

As we move from conflict into greater stability, we need to acknowledge the strength and skills of our local community groups and organisations and to support them. We also need to face up to the fact that the continued impact of sectarianism and violence on all aspects of social and economic life and aim to use creative and imaginative ways of tackling it.

As councillors, the NIWC is determined to develop meaningful partnerships with local communities. Local councillors are in a good position to liase with community groups, schools, faith groups and other institutions to begin talking about how the Council and communities can develop effective community relations policies to bring maximum benefit and a real sense of ownership to all of its residents.

In local economies, we must ensure that independent traders are able to thrive - local businesses add to both the lifeblood and the distinctive character of many of our town centres. In some places the commercial rate is going up by 13% - This is unacceptable if we want our small business people to survive.

Our plans for addressing these issues include:

¨ Facilitating discussion about promoting and protecting mixed housing schemes - not just in terms of religion, but also class.

¨ Making use of existing good practice on participative ways of combating graffiti

¨ Establishing issue based community forums between different communities in the same area

¨ Lobbying for mainstream funding to community groups so that they can develop properly without the continual threat of closure or job loss

¨ Creating space to understand the other communities better - be they based on religion or ethnic origin, perhaps with local history programmes, exhibits, events and discussions in a positive and safe environment

¨ Establishing the Council as a clearing house for information on funding sources and information from other statutory agencies

¨ Economic development strategies that benefit women as well as men

¨ Campaigning against huge increases in the commercial rates for traders.


Creating a More Inclusive Community

We are committed to reaching out and to involve both young people and older people in our communities. Both groups can feel particularly alienated - we have all seen young people hanging out on street corners, and known an elderly person who is afraid to go out, or who feel that their experience and skills are no longer valued by society. The exclusion of both groups is unjust to those who experience it and wasteful of much needed talent and experience.

Children and Young People
The change we hope to see in our communities will not be possible without the active involvement of young people. Young people are not just citizens of tomorrow, they are citizens of today. We recognise the essential role that they have to play in shaping current and future politics. In the Assembly we have proposed legislation to introduce a Children's Commissioner. At local level, we are concerned that too little emphasis is given to the needs of children for safe play space and accessible recreation facilities by Councils and other public agencies. Young people are disillusioned and disenfranchised from the political process, without a means to voice their opinions and needs to decision-makers. The effects of growing up in a culture of violence are still being felt and that this continues to limit the choices that young people make. They are bored with the limits that sectarianism places on their social lives. They need the freedom to seek employment, maintain a social life and feel safe in doing so.

To address these we think that there should be

¨ A Shadow Youth Council for each Local Council, so that young people's views have a direct link to decision-makers

¨ A place for young people on community forums so that these issues can be raised and dealt with at a grassroots level.

¨ More consultation on, and provision of, alternative, age-appropriate leisure facilities, like skateboarding and rollerblading space, created and led by young people

¨ A leading role for Councils in facilitating communication between young people, health professionals and educators about employment and training opportunities, exam anxiety and stress, and sexual health matters in order to plan effective strategies for dealing with these issues.

¨ Increased safe play areas for children including planned play areas and modification to existing streets to provide for children's needs


Older People
Older people are a valuable community resource and a reservoir of knowledge and wisdom. Unfortunately they often feel themselves to be invisible and undervalued. Once people retire they should be able to live a full and dignified life, and be encouraged to make an active and positive contribution to society.

We believe that Councils should

¨ Establish Senior Forums to discuss directly the needs and concerns of older people and act on their recommendations
¨ Take account of the needs of older people in transport and planning
¨ Take account of pensioner poverty when devising local economic policies

Moving on
Our manifesto is about supporting communities to develop themselves and reach their true potential. Often Councillors are the first person residents contact if there is a problem in the community. We pledge to build proper, participative partnerships in Councils and communities that share resources across government and non-government sectors. We want to put our principles of human rights, equality and inclusion at the heart of local government. We want Councils that are collaborative and creative to serve as an effective resource for all individuals within the community.


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